Don't search soft grades as they might get downgraded anyhow


Saturday, 15 January

An easy way to find the softest grades is to search the most repeated of each grade. One good example of this is found on Escalade9 which started listing all 9a routes in the world. During the last couple of years, many of them have been downgraded and thus their list now includes 963 routes and variations 8c+/9a to 9c. Interestingly, eight of the eleven most popular routes are now considered 8c+/9a, and a couple of them should probably be considered 8c+. Noteworthy is also that all of them but Action Directe are found in Spain or Italy.

When it comes to Action Directe, the first 9a in the world established in 1991, in comparison to the other most popular listed 8c+/9a routes, I bet it is in practice at least one grade harder. It should, however, be mentioned that one reason for the suggested downgrades is the use of kneepads. One good example of how the community, besides the quality, is also selecting routes based on how soft it is, is Era Vella. Already in 2018, 8a stated that it oficially should be graded 8c+. The reasons for that were, besides the popularity, personal messages to me from climbers who did not want to go public. Some guys called it 8c+, and Jonathan Siegrist compared it with an 8c route he had done. During the last 2.5 years, it has probably only been repeated twice, while in the 2.5 years prior to the downgrade debate it was done 17 times. Another reason for the lack of interest in the superb Chris Sharma route could be rumours about a route that has become harder due to a broken hold.

Adam Ondra has since he was a teenager frequently been giving personal grades. Lately, also Alex Megos and Jakob Schubert have done the same and Stefano Ghisolfi has actually updated the grade of a dozen of his hardest climbs. It seems that we are in the stage that several of the most popular routes of each grade could be contenders for being downgraded. So, it just might be wise to skip focusing on setting a personal grade best by choosing the most popular routes as they might just get downgraded anyhow :)

Remember that the boulder scale was adjusted in 2005 when Dave Graham put up The Story of Two (Grading) World's as an 8C. Some thought this was the wrong way to go but today it is, in fact, also due to kneepads and new sequences considered a soft 8C and some have actually started to call it 8B+. In any case, Graham’s statement changed the boulder grading all over the world with countless of downgrading. It just might be that we are about getting into a similar era in route climbing.

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